Every once in awhile, you get around to seeing a movie you never saw coming. Maybe you saw the trailer, but you never expected to see it again. It’s like an old acquaintance who made zero impression on you. On the subway, the person identifies you. “It’s been forever!” you say. It’s actually been a few days. You forgot. Some guy pulls the emergency brake.Such is my relationship with this movie. We’re stuck on a train together. Adaline sort of goes nowhere inasmuch as emerging from it. Consider the pretext: you have nothing to do. Why wouldn’t you adapt? This is happening. Reconcile its existence with your own. You’ve seen it for yourself. The truth is out there. Just close your eyes. If it’s in front of you, you’d might as well watch.
“We close our eyes, we never lose a game
Imagination never lets us take the blame
We close our eyes to see the final frame
We close our eyes to time slipping away”
Anyway, that is my train of thought. We’re moving. About this movie. Adaline came out of the ether, like comet Della C 1981. Named for the protagonist, Della only appears when it’s no longer needed. And so on. Is there some connection between her behavior and the trajectory of this rock? It has a magical quality, then, like an enormous philosopher’s stone. Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s mold. That’s life, if not the life.
Endless life. You cannot keep many friends, as many will not keep. If anything, she keeps to herself. This movie is actually very life-affirming. It doesn’t dip its toes far into nihilism except for her choice in men. She doesn’t try to kill herself, although her miserable driving doesn’t help matters. One of the major reasons she dies is a complete lack of discipline on the road. By dies, of course, I mean twice. Adaline survives dying, which suggests she didn’t die at all.
Maybe the lesson here is that you have to die in order to really live. That lesson is lost on most people because it doesn’t make any sense. Adaline is resuscitated by jolts of electricity. The clutch catches lightning in a throttle. She’s alive! This phenomenon is a result of Von Lehman’s Principle of Electron Compression in Deoxyribonucleic Acid, which isn’t discovered until 2035. Elements like these insinuate a much more interesting movie than we actually get.During the first third, you have this sense that Adaline could surprise you in the way that it shocks her. There are missed opportunities. Adaline is on the run to avoid laboratories, which would have a lot to say about her condition. Little is said about them. At one point, Feds even show up to catch her. The premise would have made a really interesting thriller. In the back of your head, you know this is going to be a romantic bust. Like I said, it’s all in the trailer. Surprise.
The biggest surprise is that it doesn’t surprise you, which, in itself, is not all that surprising. You are neither pleasantly nor unhappily surprised. Even the trailer can’t hide the sappy soppy moments. With that said, it does give you the impression that the focus is on Adaline instead of the janky romance she nurtures. This is not true. Somehow, the movie cashes in on a nice conceit to sketch a superficial picture, like those Adaline refuses to appear in for her own safety.
Enter Ellis “the island” Jones. Once these two lovebirds meet, the movie has more of a half-life than a second life. I had a difficult time believing she fell for this jerk after being so careful. Essentially unremarkable, the guy invented algorithms for climate change. She does not realize this billionaire philanthropist is actually the son of her former soulmate. The latter is played by Harrison Ford, who is excellent here, lest you think his career ended with Hollywood Homicide.
No, Ford is a guiding light in this October sky, making up for the comet whose absence defied his calculations and, as in the case of many inanimate objects, defined his unrequited love. As for his son, Ellis, we get a very standard mortal. If anything, Adaline’s interest shows that, despite 107 years, she has not evolved beyond a 29-year-old. This results in some time-honored dialogue for the ages, if not all ages.
After slamming his hand in the elevator, he says, “Oh, well, that will teach me not to put my hand where it doesn’t belong.” Adaline responds, prophetically, “Something tells me it won’t.” Sometimes this movie kind of sounds like a bad anime dub. “Tetsuo!” “Kaneda!”
On the other hand, this allows for several gems: “Tell me something I can hold onto forever and never let go.” “Let go.” Ellis complains that it was “risky” to leave before introducing herself to him, a stranger.This only has to happen once.
He interprets her silence as an acceptable reason to introduce himself: “Ellis.” “Like the island?” “No man is.” Say what? Ellis Island is no man’s land? Weak comparison? “I’m Jenny.” “Like the poem?” Her name could have come from anywhere. She is more likely to be named after Jenny Craig or Jenny from the block. Later, when he is trying to cement the arrangement of his hand in her pants, he tells her, “You can tell me anything you want and I’ll believe it. I know almost nothing about you.”This is the desperate logic of infatuation. Do you find someone attractive? Tell them everything they say is gold. Nothing gets our blood pumping like critical carte blanche. This is perfect for historical, if not pathological liars like Adaline, who can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Her life is a secret, if not a lie. No pressure. Consequently, they have some chemistry. Like citric acid and tooth enamel. Owing to regular exposure, he gradually breaks down her defenses.Surely a century is enough experience. A person wouldn’t fall for gall, let alone in love with it. And after all this time, we would develop a sort of sixth of a sense, if not a sixth sense, about mates. Even if we don’t know any better, we will eventually experience better. It’s only a matter of time, after all. Why not?She taught herself Portuguese, for God’s sake! Adaline is unpracticed after 78 years of only socializing with her daughter/sister/grandmother. It’s rust. Maybe it’s real rust.
She is not, herself, immune to a couple of bizarre inferences. Referring to some party he left to chase her down the building, she lambastes, “Leaving your date upstairs, I hope it was worth it.” “What?” “That beautiful woman in blue. Does her name happen to end in ‘kova?’” I guess she’s still got a little red scare left in her. “No. Her name is Agnes Boggs.” Agnes Boggs? I wonder how you decide on that when coming up with the screenplay.
It’s like some name you saw in the cemetery. Okay, so what’s this movie about? It uses immortality as a basis for discussing the brevity of life. Simple. Adaline loves her daughter.
There is never any question as to whether life is worth living for. All the same, you do need love. Even though the telomeric plight of Adaline’s dilemma is unwound, we learned something: an extended life needs the same nourishment as a short one, but it can take longer to get to it.Have another.
This is life or near death. Adaline lives and dies by this immortality. Although the movie implies existential turmoil, she never quite gets to it. Similarly, the film is a near miss, not unlike the comet described by Ford. In other words, it isn’t quite a miss and it doesn’t quite hit. I was going to use this as an opportunity to discuss immortality, of which the movie has none. I think it’s much more appropriate to instill the possibility and never do it, like the movie.Are we meant to be or is it just an elegy? Coincidental or incidental? Adaline begs this question, even if it does not ask. Whatever its significance, the movie itself is fairly incidental. It is like the comet not because it is rare, but because it’s fleeting. Benign. Frankly, I have mostly anodyne convictions here. I actually liked it more than Rotten Tomatoes (54%) or Metacritic (51%). Even the most boring people deserve a lawyer.
This review is less to recommend or disparage the movie than to assure you that there are worse things in life. I’d rather see it again than be flashed on a subway. Everything is glossy and they kind of gloss over everything. You sort of have to when you’re dealing with such a large amount of time. Insofar as it manages time differently, the movie is sort of like Benjamin Button, except it features a girl. So, Benjamine Button.
I have heard Blake Lively compared to oatmeal. This would make her stage name ironic. You know what? Oatmeal is really good for you. I would rather be oatmeal than a lot of other things. She plays aloof and sophisticated like a drum. If you’ve seen Gossip Girl, you know. In the right space and at the right time, Lively shines. Adaline, too. She is just like the immortal jellyfish. A streaking comet that flashes by. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” She acquits herself nicely here. “There you go again, putting your hand in places it doesn’t belong.” So what do we learn from this movie?You only live once. Even if it’s for a really long time. Narratively, one billion volts of lightning and 1,000 volts of defibrillator equate. In many cases, life is never truly lived. You do need to beat Rainbow Road inimitably before getting your driver’s license. Adaline is like love. It is best for people who have infinite time on their hands. Remember, infinity is just an 8 getting laid on the side. And so it is with Adaline. Okay, maybe a 9 or a 10.
“You know, they have a saying in Italy.” When in Rome.